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Nurses and Addiction

On Behalf of | Nov 20, 2013 | Medical Licensing

The American Nurses Association (ANA) says approximately 10% of nurses are dependent on drugs, making the incidence of drug abuse and addiction among nurses consistent with that with the U.S. population

Some nursing specialties, such as anesthesia, critical care, oncology, and psychiatry, are believed to have higher levels of substance abuse because of intense emotional and physical demands, and the availability of controlled substances in these areas, according “Substance Use Among Nurses: Differences Between Specialties”,  a landmark study  in the April 1998 American Journal of Public Health.

In Pennsylvania, there are approximately 275,000 active licensed practical nurses (LPN’s), registered nurses (RN’s) and certified registered nurse practitioners (CRNP’s)

Most nurses, regardless of their practice area, experience the stresses of long shifts, shift rotation, mandatory overtime, all of which are physically taxing and stressful. Nurses often have to stay in control and make split second decisions. There is often little down time to decompress.

The availability of medications at work and the knowledge that the drugs have the power to help you feel and perform increases health care professional’s risk of drug abuse. Nurses understand that medications can solve problems. Because of their access to and familiarity with drugs, some nurses believe they can self-medicate without becoming addicted.

According to the ANA, the most frequently abused substance for nurses is alcohol, followed by amphetamines, opiates, sedatives, tranquilizers and inhalants.

A study on monitoring the diversion of controlled substances in the March 2007 Hospital Pharmacy details the typical way nurses obtain drugs in a health care setting. Nurses may ask doctors to write a prescription for them, forge a prescription, or steal a script. They also divert drugs by administering a partial dose to a patient and saving the rest for themselves. Often, they may ask another nurse to verify that a drug was wasted without witnessing the drug’s disposal. Other nurses sign out medication for patients who have been discharged.

Addicted nurses feel tremendous shame and guilt. If they have been diverting narcotics, they often admit their diversion of narcotics when confronted by an employer.

If you have been diverting, or are accused of diverting, you should contact my office before you admit anything to an employer. If you admit to diverting narcotics, you may be subject to loss of your job and a criminal arrest.

Over the years, I have advised and assisted many nurses in getting treatment for their addiction. We are often able to get nurses into treatment without them losing their jobs.

We will also protect your rights and provide you the best possible defense.